Rescuing, Rehabilitating and Rehoming Pups in Need
Years ago, Shannon Steemke adopted a dog named Cooper who had been abused by former owners and was fearful. Steemke was an animal lover who didn’t have a lot of experience with troubled dogs. Cooper attacked Steemke and bit off a portion of her ear. Instead of giving up on Cooper, she was motivated to seek help and try to rehabilitate her. This was a defining moment in her life, and from this tragic experience, grew her desire to help others. Eventually her enthusiasm blossomed into a nonprofit rescue organization, designed to help pets and people. In 2006, after gaining years of dog training experience, Steemke founded Cooper’s Chance Animal Rescue (CCAR).
“I started Cooper’s Chance to give animals and people the best chance possible,” says Steemke, president of CCAR.
Cooper’s Chance is 100 percent volunteer run and dependent on foster families to care for the dogs in the program. Dogs are placed in a foster home, rehabilitated if needed and then adopted. While the ultimate goal is adoption, volunteers work diligently to make sure they end up in the right foster home as well.
Steemke does a site visit with all foster family candidates and listens to their needs and wants. Some people would like to offer their home on a short-term basis, while others might want a longer time-frame. Some fosters prefer older dogs, while others are just jumping at the chance to take a litter of puppies. Some people come with training knowledge and want a second chance pet, while others prefer an easy keeper.
“Without foster homes we can’t rescue,” says Steemke. “We provide everything from bowls and food, to medical care. All the foster homes need to provide is a loving home and safe place.”
She also recognizes that people might need a break in between foster dogs and supports that wholeheartedly.
Dog and People Training
The rescue acquires many dogs from Maricopa County animal shelters and smaller rural shelters that have a high intake. They strive to rescue abused and neglected dogs that are at high risk for euthanasia. Rehabilitation and training are critical to their success.
“We get so many compliments about our dogs. Even our second chance dogs who were on a euthanasia list or in the shelters for months,” says Steemke.
Most of the training is spearheaded by Steemke, who has eight years of extensive dog training experience. But if the dog needs more training than she can provide, she sets the dog up with a professional trainer.
Steemke is a strong advocate for education, and not just for the pups. She enjoys educating humans too, and sees it as the solution for over-crowded shelters.
“We have a serious problem,” says Steemke. “If we can educate people, we can have fewer dogs in the shelter and get these dogs adopted.”
Bringing Home the Kibble
Cooper’s Chance Animal Rescue hosts several fundraisers annually. They also depend on a few small grants and the generosity of the Chandler community.
They always need foster families and volunteers to help with events and fundraising. They appreciate donations of dog food and supplies such as leashes, crates and bowls. Their number one supply need, surprisingly, is linens, towels, sheets or anything a nursing doggy mom can lay on.
“We have been in Chandler since day one and will continue to be. Our long-term goal is to have a building here. We want to have a green focused rescue, a sanctuary,” says Steemke.
A shelter is no home for a pregnant dog or her pups. Most shelters euthanize them because they are just overrun. Fortunately through their program called Pawsative Beginnings, CCAR focuses heavily on rescuing these puppies and moms so they can have a chance at life.
“We have a million puppies. Right now I have a litter of five in my house. They turn out to be the most wonderful puppies because they are hand raised,” says Steemke.
Recently some puppies were found in a school dumpster in Casa Grande. Steemke praises the maintenance man who found them, because school was dismissed for the summer. She guesses they are Labrador, cattle dog and maybe Aussie mixes. They are various colors from brindle to brown and two of them have green eyes. They are ready to be adopted and are vaccinated, sterilized and microchipped for their new mom or dad. They are also very accustomed to receiving love.
It’s hard to believe that Steemke runs CCAR on a volunteer basis, but she does! She has a full-time job pet sitting and is proud to give a portion of her proceeds to CCAR. She’s dedicated. She knows that the program rescued precisely 409 dogs and teases that you’re not her friend or family unless you foster.
The easiest way to adopt, volunteer, become a foster parent or donate to CCAR is by visiting their website at CoopersChance.org.